An elementary school principal is making a difference by using a new initiative to transform student behavior in the Kernville Union School District.
The “Leader in Me,” approach is all about breading incentive for students to behave in class and to help give them the tools to be stronger leaders in the future workforce as well as the community.
23ABC had a chance to meet with both students and district faculty to see just how the new strategies are working and being used.
Woodrow Wallace Elementary School Principal, Brian Polston saw an area on school campus that he felt needed more attention, “Witnessing a lot of behaviors that are very concerning that our teachers struggle with, and we struggle with and really interfere with our academics,” Polston said.
In March, Polston made it his priority to bring about change in student behavior, "A behavior grading system where students on a daily basis are receiving a grade that's based on attendance, their tardiness, behavior in the classroom that's determined by office referrals that they may receive for poor behavior," Polston said.
The office monitors the attendance and poor behavior referrals submitted by teachers, but that is not the only area of behavior Polston and staff are now monitoring, "So we've been having the teachers and the paraprofessionals over the last two months tally mark every time they see unwanted physical contact even if it's just a push," Polston said.
In just one week staff tallied roughly 1,200 unwanted physical contact interactions in different areas on campus and on the bus. Data showed it was mostly happening in lines, on the playground and on the bus.
From there additional staff members were placed in those areas and interactions decreased by 50 percent.
Each day the student can also now receive up to 100 points in good behavior. In order to bread more incentive and keep behavior scores high, Polston developed the, "husky buck" currency for students like eight-year-old Bradley Whitman to spend on Friday treats.
"If your here every day and you behave every day and no referrals or anything then you would get a hundred points and if you get 100 points everyday then you get 15 husky bucks," eight-year-old third grade Wallace Elementary student Bradley Whitman said.
Polston and staff base behavior training for all 494 students off doctor Stephen Covey's book, "The Leader in Me" and the 7 Habit philosophy. The 7 habits are to listen before you talk, think that everyone can win, believe together is better, work first then play, be proactive, find a balance within, and have a plan in mind.
"My plan in my life is to really help my family and pretty much just be nice and show other people what a leader is," Whitman said.
Once a week Polston holds a meeting with one student from each class about the behavior findings, that way students can report back to their classmates and hold each other accountable.
However, it wasn't an overnight process, in order to put everything in place to track and impact behavior thoroughly Polston and Kernville Union School District board members knew the training would be costly. From there Polston stepped up, promising district Superintendent Robin Shive and the board $50,000 in 30 days to get the ball rolling on the project.
“We took it to the board he was willing to go forward and raise the money all on his own and he went to the churches different community organizations, philanthropic groups to bring leaders to our community through our students," Superintendent Kernville Union School District Robin Shive said.
Wallace Elementary School teachers told 23ABC that the initiative has changed their classrooms for the better and that principal Polston makes the tracking system easy for staff.
Polston also said that staff will continue to track behavior during the next school year as well, to see where more progress can be made.